In its second season finale on Tuesday (March 15) night, “V” made a full transition from science fiction to slasher, offering the first glimmer of hope for the creatively challenged series in many a moon.
It’s not that complex, mythology-rich sci-fi can’t survive on the small screen. Just look at “Fringe,” though “survive” may be a slightly overstatement for what the FOX series is doing on Fridays. But you need look no further than the on-life-support status of “V” and NBC’s “The Event” to realize something that maybe TV development executives don’t quite get about sci-fi: It’s hard.
You have to have writers capable of creating jargon-packed dialogue that simultaneously makes sense and moves the plot forward, while also not insulting members of your audience who make the attempt to process and appreciate the genre underpinings. The dialogue also has to be smooth enough to avoid crippling your show’s cast, which pre-supposes you have a cast good enough to sell that dialogue in the first place. Both “V” and “The Event” have displayed that no matter how many reasonably capable actors you can somehow lure, even the most intelligent or likable of actors can become a blathering idiot and a one-dimensional puppet if abused by weak writing.
It’s hard to do sci-fi.
Doing a slasher film, even on TV, is much easier. If you’re going down that genre path, you need only two things: A good villain and ample fodder. You don’t watch a “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Saw” film rooting for humanity’s finer nature to prevail. Screw that. You want carnage and you want to be reassured that even if Freddy Krueger or Jigsaw seem to be in trouble, everybody involved in the production knows that viewers will be rooting for the bad guy and any supposed hero is totally disposable.
After ineptly attempting to make viewers care with and root for a rag-tag bunch of wretchedly written, poorly portrayed freedom fighters for the better part of 22 episodes, “V” surrendered on Tuesday night and just admitted what’s been blatantly obvious since the premiere: Morena Baccarin’s Anna is the show. Period. And she isn’t just the show. She’s the freakin’ hero of the show. If that makes Humanity and The Fifth Column the villains on “V”? So be it. I’m not sure that there’s a single human character on the show that I don’t view as cannon fodder and it was almost courageous of the “V” writers to admit that over 22 episodes, they’d shaped The Fifth Column into the most useless resistance force ever.
And no, I’m not *actually* convinced that the things I enjoyed about Tuesday’s “V” finale were in any way intentional on the part of the writers, but I found a way to enjoy the finale, so that’s the interpretation I’m taking away.
More thoughts on the finale after the break… Spoilers coming, obviously.
Were the events of Tuesday’s “V” finale too little, too late? Well yes. Tuesday’s finale was an unconditional surrender on all fronts, but after 22 episodes of declining ratings, is anybody going to believe “V” if it returns next fall claiming that all of the kinks are finally worked out?
Two seasons of developing the V breeding plan and basing it all around increasingly sad-sack Lisa (Laura Vandervoort) needing to receive seed from TV’s Worst Character Tyler (Logan Huffman)? Partially unnecessary, partially scrapped. Two seasons of advancing that these five or six people in Vancouver — err… New York City — were single-handedly leading the terrorist cell that was going to conquer the Vs, despite barely making a dent the V resolve in 22 episodes? Scrapped. The show could return again in Season 3 and never mention the words “fifth column” ever again. All of that early season stuff about Anna fearing the human soul or some such philosophical nonsense? Forget that.
The “V” finale went through narrative dead-wood like Paul Bunyan in a new-growth forest. The Fifth Column has been replaced by Project Ares, which bigwig Lars Tremont describes as “A cabal of hight ranking military and government leaders throughout the world, who’ve long suspected that the Vs are not of peace.” Did I mention that Lars Tremont is played by original “V” star Marc Singer? Not to speak ill of The Beast Master, but I’ve never successfully been able to take a word spoken by a Marc Singer character especially seriously. Marc Singer was a star for a brief period in the ’80s when somebody like Marc Singer could be a star. I’m much more confident in Project Ares’ ability to do business because of the presence of Jay Karnes. Project Ares seems far more technologically advanced and better staffed than The Fifth Column, so that’s an improvement already.
They’ve brought Elizabeth Mitchell’s Erica along for the Project Ares ride, but it’s initially vague whether any of our other former heroes are going to be invited along. Want my preference? Leave ’em out. Really, Erica also could have been left out. “Lost” taught us that Elizabeth Mitchell is a good actress. Interviews and various Con panels have convinced me that she’s also a whip-smart actress. Given those facts, how have the “V” writers and directors made her seem so inept? None of the emotions she’s been asked to play on “V” are that different from what was required of her on “Lost,” but somehow she’s lost the ability to be convincingly authoritative, she’s lost the ability to be convincingly intellectual and she’s lost the ability to be sympathetic or appealing as a mother or a romantic lead. The kindest thing that could have been done to Elizabeth Mitchell would have been killing Erica Evans off and letting the actress move back into pilot circulation.
I guess the writers figure they need Erica as a point-of-entry into Project Ares and, more importantly, they probably think that they trimmed enough dead wood in the finale.
That very quiet cheer that you may have heard at around 9:45 was collective excitement from the nation’s dozen “V” fans celebrating the apparent death of Tyler, mauled by Randy Flesh Puppet Lisa, the recoated fruit of Anna’s Queen Egg. Randy Flesh Puppet Lisa is not to be confused with Easily Duped Human Sympathizer Lisa, whose punishment for contemplating killing her mother was being deposited in the basement, denied use of soap and hair conditioner and then forced to watch Randy Flesh Puppet Lisa ride her boyfriend like burro, accept his seminal offering and then unhinge her jaw and gnaw at Tyler’s neck for a while. [Why did Randy Flesh Puppet Lisa decided to eat Tyler when we’ve never had any indication previously that Vs consider humans to be tasty or nutritious food? I have no idea. Both of the other casualties in the episode came via the Vs’ Penetrating Penis Tails, but I guess the writers liked the idea that the animal kingdom has several examples of species in which the females are into post-coital spouse-noshing. But Lisa didn’t really do anything to Tyler other than bite down on his neck, get covered in arterial flow and stop.]
Tyler’s death was a key part of the show’s transition into slasher-dom. Annoying teenagers have sex and then they die. We all know the rules. We’ve seen that convention played out countless times.
We’ve also seen very comparable mid-speech killings, like the one that befell Jane Badler’s Diana. The writers brought Diana back in the first place to pander to fans of the original show, but Badler didn’t cause the “V” needle to move in any positive direction, nor is there much online fan evidence suggesting that old fans were made re-interested in the show because of her presence. Thus, why keep her around and, more importantly, why worry about alienating — Get it? Alien-ating? — old fans by offing the character in hilariously abrupt fashion. Diana’s death served only to let Anna utter the line of the night — “Now THAT’S how you kill your mother” — and to prove that the “V” writers are big fans of “Deep Blue Sea.”
And how many times have horror films taught us that scarily mature children are forces of vicious evil? “V” reminded us of that lesson when Ryan’s daughter Amy used her Penetrating Penis Tail to choke her daddy, already a Bad Seed even if she’s only six weeks old. Getting Logan Huffman off of “V” was a big improvement and getting rid of Morris Chestnut was nearly equally important. He was annoying enough in the first season, but when he became a motivationally inconsistent traitor because of his brat of a daughter and her need for Yummy, Delicious Bliss, it was time for him to go.
Oh and speaking of Yummy, Delicious Bliss, did I mention that Amy can give Bliss to humans? Sure, Anna can also give humans Bliss, but she can’t do it without getting Kabuki Blood Eyes. And you know why Amy can give Yummy, Delicious Bliss? Because quickly growing hybrids are always awesome. This is what the “V” writers learned from Renesmee Cullen, darnit. It was a generally good week for Amy, who also learned how to speak and how to straighten her hair. And you just know that the “V” writers have assured ABC that if the show comes back, Amy will be played by a smoking hot 20-something actress and her aging process will have mysteriously stopped. Might I suggest Gugu Mbatha-Raw?
This season of “V” was narratively dreadful and the finale acknowledged as much. This was not an “Everything that happened this season led us to this point” finale. It was a “We don’t particularly like anything we did this season and now we should probably prove to ABC that we have a different story in mind if they somehow bring us back” finale.
And there’s almost no reason ABC would bring “V” back. Its ratings are awful and although they get a so-so DVR bump, this isn’t a show like “Fringe” were the DVR bump is so significant that it practically forced the network to evaluate things in a different way. ABC isn’t in very good shape. “My Generation” is already dead. “No Ordinary Family” and “Off the Map” are as good as dead. In fact, if you look at ABC’s drama development in recent years, it’s a field of shallow graves. ABC gave “V” a pity pickup last year and audiences haven’t rewarded that decision. If one embarrassingly low-rated ABC drama gets a pity pickup this May, I’d expect it to be “Detroit 187,” though nobody would blame ABC for cleaning house entirely if the development season is good enough.
Why would you bring “V” back? Because Morena Baccarin is phenomenal. She’s been giving one of the best performances on an awful show that I can remember. I mean, she’s saying things like “My breeding plans are reaching fruition. Lisa is fertile. And tonight she and Tyler will mate” and “You taught me everything you know, but you never learned half of what I know” and she pulls it off. She’s reptilian and feral, but also sexy and thoughtfully conniving. Baccarin’s Anna is everything one could possibly want in a small screen villain and since the writers failed so totally to give her an adequate human foil, I stopped rooting for anybody other than Anna, in the same way I root for Hannibal Lecter. Does it make me unpatriotic to root against humanity? Perhaps. But I say, “Bring on the slaughter.” Anna and her people won on Tuesday’s finale and it made for the season’s most entertaining episode. More, please. She can still take out Joel Gretsch’s Father Jack, Charles Mesure’s Kyle and Scott Wolf’s Chad before the producers need to start introducing more sexy vapid teens to kill off. No, that show wouldn’t be sci-fi anymore, but if the “V” idea of sci-fi is nattering about Blue Energy, Red Rain, Yellow Moons and Purple Horseshoes, why keep up the ruse?
Yup. The “V” I’d keep watching is the one where Anna wanders around killing people and spitting out lines like, “Put skin on my new daughter.”
A few other thoughts on Tuesday’s “V” finale:
*** Speaking of “Put skin on my new daughter,” how great was it to see Laura Vandervoort go back to being raunchy and wicked? The neutering of that character this season was almost unbearable.
*** Speaking, again, of “Put skin on my new daughter,” that bitchin’ line had me singing Beyonce all afternoon. “If you like her, then you should have put some skin on her…”
*** If the writers need to bring back Mesure and Kyle, that’s their business, but the lack of chemistry between Mesure and Mitchell was astounding and that’s one relationship that I’d like to hope even the ‘shippers knew didn’t work.
*** “V” didn’t get good value out of Bret Harrison. I get that Harrison did a pilot he thought hadn’t been picked up and was looking for a paycheck between development seasons (and until FOX ended up picking up “Breaking In”), but it’s sad that this was the best he could do and the best that they could do with him.
*** Chad Decker: Least Interesting Duplicitous Character Ever or… Well, there is no alternative. I don’t get any of that character’s motivations all season long and I really don’t care. When the series started, it looked as if Chad was going to be a vehicle for an interesting critique of MSNBC/Fox News-style partisan journalism. He hasn’t been. He’s been nothing. Just as Mitchell deserves better, Scott Wolf deserves better.
*** The show abandoned all political subtext long ago. This episode abandoned the Jungian Electra Complex stuff that the title hinted at, but never fulfilled. “V” also has failed to have any spiritual ideology. Again, it’d be good for the producers to just do a show about Anna killing humans. No need for context there. Why kill humans? Cuz she’s evil. Who needs anything more?
*** Speaking of the show’s subtle touch with them, we had Father Jack say “I want to look in the sky and see God again” 100 percent as a set-up for the last scene when he’s staring into the sky at the shafts of light meant to represent Amy’s Yummy, Delicious Bliss. The idea of a man of faith steered to a false faith would be much more interesting if we’d already seen evidence of religious figures embracing the Vs and seen Anna threatening the Vatican. Just as Mitchell and Wolf deserve better, Gretsch deserves better.
*** Lars Tremont? Really, “V” writers? You didn’t wanna give Marc Singer a character name he could speak without it sounding like a joke?
*** And guess what? You may have gotten the impression I dislike “V,” but it’s still 538X better than “The Event.”
Anyway, feel free to sound off with your own thoughts on the “V” finale…